A straight-out last-day title decider is something of a rarity given the length of a regular domestic season, but it is a winner-takes-all battle in Catalunya this weekend between Barcelona and Atlético Madrid for the La Liga crown.
The race to be named Spanish champions has been a three-way joust between these two combatants and Real Madrid all-season long, but a dip in form by all three sides over the last number of weeks has resulted in countless missed opportunities.
Carlo Ancelotti’s men have seemingly been distracted by the prospect of claiming the fabled Décima, after an 11-year wait to potentially be crowned European champions for a momentous tenth occasion.
The Estadio Santiago Bernabéu outfit have thrown away the opportunity to win the treble this term and after a 2-0 defeat against Celta Vigo on Sunday are now out of the La Liga running.
Although the loss at Estadio de Balaídos acted as the final nail in the coffin, draws against Valencia and Real Valladolid have marked a terrible period since their unprecedented 4-0 win at the Allianz Arena.
Had Los Blancos picked up the maximum nine points from these games instead of a paltry two, a point against Espanyol at home could have handed the capital city side the league.
Across town, Atlético have been in the driving seat but have blown the chance to wrap up the league in the last fortnight with defeat at Levante and a home draw with Malaga this weekend.
However, Gerardo Martino’s side have failed to win their last two games, drawing with both Getafe and Elche to set up a last-day cliff-hanger.
Atlético are top of the division on 89 points and merely need a draw at Camp Nou this Sunday to clinch their first top-flight title since 1996.
Hosts Barcelona are three points adrift of Los Rojiblancos, but know that victory on home soil this weekend will see them retain their domestic crown due to a superior head-to-head record against the Estadio Vicente Calderón outfit.
For the Blaugrana, one game’s result will determine whether this campaign has been a success or failure.
Atlético still have the Champions League final against rivals Real to act as a chance for redemption or as crowning double glory.
The significance of Sunday’s clash is typified by a meeting of new and old forces of Spanish football.
Barcelona have been so dominant in recent years, winning four of the last five Primera División titles in a period of vast success. However, with some of the stalwarts of Pep Guardiola’s memorable side starting to feel their age and leave the club, a rebuilding process looks to be on the agenda in Catalunya.
Atlético have the chance to be the first team other than the Clásico rivals to win the division since Valencia’s achievements back in 2004. Simeone’s charges represent the rising force in Spanish football, with a unique brand of football played by a side full of unsung heroes.
Atleti should go into the game with confidence given their elimination of Barcelona in this season’s Champions League and the fact that they have not been beaten by the Catalans in their last five meetings in all competitions.
For Simeone’s men, who have been such a breath of fresh air in both Spanish and European football this term, 180 minutes against the Clásico pair will dictate either ecstasy or despair.
For Barcelona, a win on home soil this weekend would be a fitting sign-off for a number of longstanding Catalan stars.
Despite the tight nature of some other domestic top flights across Europe this season, this term’s La Liga campaign has been the most unpredictable and exciting in the recent memory.
Barcelona against Atlético this Sunday – may the best team win.